My top three events for this weekend are dedicated to the Orioles vs. Nationals series at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Before I talk about what happened on the field I must comment on what happened in the stands. It was pretty amazing to see over 44 thousand fans per game turn out to watch this weekend. The old time atmosphere was back at Camden Yards for two teams that are in playoff contention in late June. This series had a little bit of everything. It showed why some people think the Orioles are contenders and why everyone is still waiting for the other shoe to drop and see the Orioles drop out of contention. The Orioles won two out of three games but scored just five runs in the process.
Somehow, someway the Orioles keep finding ways to win, and they continue to get solid pitching. Their starters have shown an ability to get deeper into games, Jason Hammel has a complete game and eight- inning outing in his last two starts, and If the Orioles can take a lead into the eighth inning or later it has been an almost guaranteed victory. Jim Johnson is now 22 for 23 in save opportunities and the lone save he has blown was against the Red Sox. In that game the Orioles scored the next inning and Johnson picked up the win. They lead the Major Leagues in homeruns in the seventh inning or later and they have only scored 17 runs in their last nine games, but they went 4-5 in those games.
What scares the hell out of Orioles fans is their anemic line-up and inconsistent defense. It’s easy to believe that it will be tough for the Orioles to win consistently if they continue to struggle at the plate Third base has been a problem all season and Wilson Betemit made another error on Saturday night. The Orioles are hitting just .246 as a team, and Adam Jones is the only active Orioles hitting .300 or better (.300). They also lead the Major Leagues in grounding into double plays (79). Here is the most worrisome stat of all. The Orioles are just 4-44 with runners in scoring position over their last nine games and that includes one game where they were 3-5. Take that out and its 1-39 over the other eight. That’s what I said 1-39. Here’s my countdown for the series with a few comments on each game.
The Nationals 3-1 victory over the Orioles on Saturday night comes in at #3.
Wei-Yin Chen only managed to go five innings but was also betrayed by his defense. Wilson Betemit failed to make an inning ending play on a Xavier Nady ground ball. The official scorer credited Nady with a hit on the play but I totally disagree. It certainly was not a routine play but Betemit got to the ball and if he would have been more fundamentally sound on the play would have made a better throw to first. I believe he should have been charged with a straight error on the play and both runs should have been unearned. It was a tough night for Betemit. He also was double off of second base to end the seventh inning. The sad part about that play was that even if Betemit had been able to get back to second Mark Reynolds was so far off of first that Ian Desmond could have run over and tagged him as well. It was a double boneheaded whammy on the base paths for the Birds. I really love Betemit’s bat but he is tough to watch at third base. Will the Orioles address this at the trading deadline or is Miguel Tejada in the Orioles plans this year?
Coming in at #2 is the Orioles 2-1 win on Friday night.
J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds powered the Orioles to the win on Friday night but Jason Hammel was the real story. Hammel was fantastic for the second straight time. He wasn’t as dominant as he was in his near no hitter against the Braves but he was awful close. Hammel scattered five hits and the one run he gave up was unearned when, you guessed it, Wilson Betemit couldn’t handle a throw from Mark Reynolds which allowed Ian Desmond to score. You may want to fault Mark Reynolds on a poor throw, but to me on that play Betemit has to make sure he makes the catch first before he tries to put down the tag. The throw from Reynolds was well within reach for Betemit. Hamel struck out 10 and lowered his E.R.A. to 2.61. The way the Orioles scored their two runs tells you a lot about the importance of maximizing your hits. Coming into his seventh inning at bat J.J. Hardy was 2 for his last 27, but his seventh inning RBI double was the difference in the game.